Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Conversations with the God of Easter

“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matt 22:31-32)

This is the proclamation of Easter. Yet in every aspect this proclamation is dependent upon the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Without the crucifixion there is no resurrection. The life that is declared during the season of Easter is the life that was purchased on the cross by Jesus. Christians cannot live the life of Easter glory without coming to this glorious life in Christ through the death of the Sinner on the cross. Dying with Christ in Baptism is the only way to the new life of “walking in the Spirit” of the resurrection. Christians always come to the joy of life through the humble repentance effected through confession and absolution. This confession of sin and reliance upon God’s absolution is the key to Christian living. By this, a person awakens in the morning signing himself with the cross and reclining in the evening with the same sign on his heart and mind, continually being turned from his own thoughts, words, and deeds to the miracle of Good Friday, manifested fully on Easter Sunday.

This baptismal miracle of repentance is the beginning of true conversations with the God of Easter. For by the miracle of repentance a person is turned from everything else to the Word of God. Every activity in the life of one who has received the miracle of repentance directs his heart to Jesus, the Word of the God of the living. This is the true meaning of repentance.

When a believer’s heart is directed by baptismal grace to know that the life of faith is based or founded upon the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, that person recognizes God’s Word more and more fully in every aspect of his life. More and more this life founded upon Christ crucified demonstrates the Lord of Life as the believer’s very life. More and more the person realizes what St. Paul declared,
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

This is, of course, baptismal talk. It is the language of the preaching of the crucified and risen Lord. Notice that this is different than “making Christ the center of one’s life.” No, Christ is not the center of the new life of the Christian. Christ IS the new life of the Christian. Christ is not the center of Christian living. He is the Head. He does the thinking. He makes the decisions. He gives the direction. He says when to breathe and to eat and to drink. He determines the path in which the person walks by the Spirit.

The more surely that a person acknowledges this, the more that it manifests itself in the person’s daily walk. The more concretely that a person’s life of faith is based upon the knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the more surely that the person relies upon the God of the living as the real and active force in his life. Before long the person begins to recognize God speaking through everything that he encounters. Before long the person begins to talk to God about absolutely every little thing. What is even more amazing is the person actually begins to listen to God to hear what God is saying.

Yes, God does speak to His children. He does this by using the little things of life to call His children to repent, that is, to turn back to Him in conversation, also called worship. The person begins recognizing that the holy Communion that is renewed through the Sacrament of the Altar continues in every moment of the walk of faith. The person begins to talk to the God of the living about everything.

For example, as a man who earns his living climbing trees, the wind plays a very important role in my daily life. Here in Kansas, the wind blows hard enough to blow branches down the street, sometimes even branches that weigh more than I do. This occurs without even having a storm. When this occurs, I find it very frustrating, especially when I am swaying in the top of a tree.

I have often fussed at the wind, saying things like, “Stupid wind!!!!!!!!”

One day I remembered that in the Scriptures the word for wind in Hebrew is Ruach and in the Greek is pneumatos. These are the very same words that the Scriptures use for the Holy Spirit. This made me realize that when I fuss at the wind, I am really fussing at God. I began talking to God about this. Before long I was realizing that when I fuss about ANYTHING, I am fussing at God. I began to remember that all these things are by God’s ordinance and that He is the one working in them and through them for His own purposes.

So now, I don’t fuss at the wind. Instead, I fuss directly at God. I ask Him, ”Why are You doing this? You know that I have work to do. You provided me with this work. You have commanded me to do it as unto You. So why are you fighting me on it? Why are you making it hard for me to do what you have given me to do?”

Sometimes this goes on for a while, other times I hear God more quickly. This is actually an important realization about prayer/worship. A person cannot hear God unless the person is actually listening. How can a person know whether he is listening to God? That is really very easy to answer. The answer rests in this question, “Who is doing the talking?”

In other words, as the person prays, is his heart being led to the Scriptures, the written record of God’s declaration of the Word? Or does the person go on and on, eventually formulating his own answers and claiming that they are from God?

Returning to my fussing with God about the wind, and this happens regularly, I find that before long I am thinking about passages of Scripture that tell me about the way the Spirit works in my life, often even against my will and desire. I hear Scriptures that speak of how the Spirit always speaks of Christ and the salvation that Christ won on the cross. Eventually I end up thanking God for fighting against me with the wind and praying that He would help me to work with the wind rather than against it. When I begin actually to do this, I find that even though the wind is fighting what I was doing, that it can help in other ways when I follow the flow of the wind rather than insisting on doing the work by my own wisdom and choices. Moreover, I am talking to the God of the living rather than merely going about my daily chores on my own. I am aware of God working with me and for me, calling me to repent and return to Him in all things. After all, what is more important, the speed with which I complete the job of trimming a tree that the wind will someday blow down anyway, or that the Wind blow into my life and work the miracle of repentance so that my thoughts are directed away from the things on the earth to the affection of the things above? (Col. 3:2)

Truly the message of the season of Easter is one of the life of continual repentance of baptismal grace and of the regular renewal of the Holy Communion in Christ’s body and blood. Through these God shows Himself to be the God of the living and calls His children to know Him in every activity of their lives in Him. This is what St. Paul teaches when he instructs that we should:

Rejoice evermore.

Pray without ceasing.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Quench not the Spirit.

Despise not prophesyings.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
(1Thes 5:16-24)

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